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Issue #863: February 4-10, 2024

Q: I want to buy hubby a new computer. I want to get a Dell, but don’t know how to pick one. All we will be doing is Googling, internet access, uploading pictures. We don’t need any bells or whistles. We are retired and have only basic skills. Thanks so much for your input.  We would also require Windows 11.

 – Ellen G.
Niceville, Florida

A:  Wow, Ellen, your seemingly simple need has some rather interesting requirements attached to it, especially considering that you claim you “don’t know how to pick” a computer.  Let’s break down these requirements and see whether they are really necessary.

First of all, I think that it’s very sweet that you want to buy your husband a new computer.  That’s a joy that I will never know, because Spouse Peripheral freely admits that she doesn’t know anything about this stuff, what’s best, what I would want, or why.  You, on the other hand, seem to have some very specific ideas, for example, you want to get a Dell.  That’s fine, but just know that typically, you’re going to pay a higher price for a Dell-branded computer than you will for many other vendors’ machines.  There’s nothing really wrong with that in my opinion, so long as you go into it with your eyes open, and are aware of how aspects like warranty coverage and support after the sale compare to other companies.  Make sure that what you’re getting makes the difference in price worth it to you.  That’s all that matters.

Your description of what you want to do with a computer is pretty simplistic.  Everything you listed is within the capabilities of a type of computer known as a Chromebook.  They are less powerful devices, typically having lower-powered processors, less RAM, and very little on-board file storage.  They look and function like a laptop, but they don’t run Windows.  Instead, they run a lightweight operating system called ChromeOS.  Without the overhead of Windows, and without the need to be able to run any and every piece of software out there, the lower-end hardware is more than capable of the type of computing you described.  The best part is that Chromebooks are priced well below Windows PCs.  Different class of machine – different pricing structure.

You said that you “require Windows 11.”  That would seem to booth Chromebooks as an option.  You didn’t really say why you have this requirement, but I’ll share a little not-so-secret with you:  all laptops manufactured since late 2021 come with Windows 11, and a good portion of those built before then can be upgraded to it.  If you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a proponent of running the latest of, well, everything, so a desire for Windows 11 is good, even if you don’t really know why you want it. Oh, but wait – Windows 12 is due to come out some time in 2024.

As far as “bells or whistles” that a computer might come with, I imagine you mean things like touch-screens, fingerprint readers, backlit keyboards, and so forth.  My only advice would be to not specifically avoid these features if you find a machine you like at a price you’re willing to pay that happens to include the odd bell or whistle. 

I should mention that I’m completely skipping any discussion of MacBooks, since you said you want a Windows machine.  Just know that Macs are perfectly capable of doing everything you mentioned that you want hubby’s computer to do.  So, let’s bottom-line it.  You probably need a machine with a Core i3, i5, or i7 CPU running faster than 1 gigahertz (GHz).  You don’t need much RAM or hard drive storage, but Windows 11 requires at least 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM, and 64 GB of local storage.  There are other considerations, such as screen size and resolution, Wi-Fi capabilities, etc. Overall, you don’t really need to know what all that stuff means – just compare it with the specs of whatever machines you’re considering, or consult with a sales rep.  I think you’ll find that many, if not most computers being sold these days meet or exceed these specifications anyway.  That simplifies it for you, since you’re left to worry more about price than technical stuff.


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